Mikhail Kolonin, Ph.D., the study's senior author and associate professor at the UTHealth Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, said that brown adipose tissue, responsible for heat generation, has high importance in the context of metabolic diseases.
He said that brown fat is more common in kids but has recently been discovered in adult humans.
Kolonin asserted that however, measurement of its body distribution has remained technically challenging.
He said that they are reporting a peptide probe that zeroes in on brown fat and can be used for localization of this tissue in mice by whole body imaging.
Kolonin teamed up with UTHealth medical imaging researcher Eva Sevick-Muraca, Ph.D., to develop a near-infrared fluorescence imaging probe that binds to brown adipose vasculature and emits tiny amounts of skin-penetrating light that can be picked up by highly sensitive cameras.
Kolonin's team tested numerous combinations before finding one that selectively localizes to brown fat when administered intravenously. Sevick-Muraca's team coupled the peptide with a dye that could be picked up during whole body scans.
This study has been published in Nature Communications.